posted on May, 14 2004 @ 08:28 AM
U.S. forces are pursuing Moqtada
al-Sadr's forces inside the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala. After guerillas began firing mortars at U.S. positions from a vast cemetery in
Najaf, the U.S. sent tanks into the cemetery to root out the insurgents, and put a stop to the attacks. al-Sadar himself is taking refuge in the Imam
Ali shrine in Najaf, and is turning the Shiite's shrine into a base of operations. U.S. forces are less than a half-mile from the holy shrines and
say that they will not encroach them, but have dropped leaflets in the area urging al-Sadar's milita to surrender.
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces intensified their war against Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday, sending tanks into Najaf's vast
cemetery to blast guerrilla positions among its ancient tombs for the first time.
At least three U.S. tanks moved deep into the Najaf cemetery, a city within a city covering several square miles where Shiites from all over the world
wish to be buried within sight of the city's sacred shrines.
U.S. troops as close as half a mile from Kerbala's most sacred buildings made loudspeaker announcements calling on people to stay out of the area.
Helicopters dropped leaflets urging Sadr's men to give in.
US helicopter gunship over Najaf
The U.S. has been involved with negotiations with influential Shiite leaders,
some have even called for al-Sadar to give up his fighting and protect the sanctity of the Shiite religion. An undisclosed agreement has been reached
and U.S. forces have now entered the Shiite's two holy cities and are fighting up next to some of their most sacred sites. U.S. forces are being
cautious so that they do not enrage the rest of the Shiite population, including those who are opposed to al-Sadar's tactics.
Tuesday, U.S. forces breeched the Mukhaiyam Mosque which is next to the Shrine of Hussein. This shrine houses the tomb of Imam al-Hussein who was
killed in 684 AD, and is the second most sacred site to the Shiite Muslims. Shells from M-1 Abrams tanks leveled several buildings surrounding the
mosque. Col. Peter Mansoor, the commander of the First Brigade of the First Armored Division said that he believed the attack on the mosque had
"broken the back of the insurgents", but that there would still be some who wished to continue the fighting.
[Edited on 14-5-2004 by dbates]